Delaware unemployment rate ticks upward in March
DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate ticked upward by 20 basis points for the third straight month in March, reaching 6.5%, but that movement was largely due to more people returning to the labor force, according to state officials.
The state saw the creation of 2,300 jobs last month, continuing a string of three months of gains, while 600 people returned to the labor force, adding to the 6,700 who returned in the first months of 2021, according to the monthly report released Friday morning.
The labor force captures not only workers and those receiving unemployment benefits, but also those in search of work who aren’t receiving assistance. As workers stop seeking work, for a variety of reasons ranging from retirement to childcare, they are no longer counted as being unemployed in the state. The rise in the labor force is a sign that as the pandemic’s effects are easing, more people may be preparing to re-enter the workforce as opportunity allows.
While the state saw net job growth last month, that metric includes both resident and non-resident workers, while the unemployment rate only tracks residents, explained Tom Dougherty, the state’s chief economist.
Delaware’s March unemployment rate of 6.5% continues a streak to start 2021 where the state’s rate was above the national average, which sat at 6% last month. New weekly unemployment claims in the First State rose to more than 3,800 in the week ending April 10, more than double where they were about a month ago. About 25,200 people continue to receive assistance, the lowest total since the early days of the pandemic.
The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 31,600 workers were unemployed, an increase of 600 since February.
The official monthly unemployment figure is created by looking at continuous unemployment insurance claims as well as a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of residents on their employment status. It tracks not only those receiving benefits, but also those who are ineligible, such as terminated employees, those who have resigned and the self-employed, who only became eligible for assistance under a special federal program established under the CARES Act.
More than 202,000 state workers have filed for unemployment assistance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a variety of state and federal programs have tried to help offset some of their losses. Over the now-yearlong pandemic, state and federal unemployment assistance has paid more than $1.18 billion to Delaware residents.
The state’s three counties saw similar rates of unemployment in March, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 6.5%, 7.5% and 6.4%, respectively – although those statistics aren’t seasonally adjusted. Wilmington and Dover, the state’s two most populous cities, have seen an even greater impact in job losses, where 10.3% of workers were unemployed in both.
The largest monthly job gain came from the education and health sector, which added 900 jobs in March. It was followed by construction, which added 600 jobs; professional and business services, which added 500 jobs; and hospitality, which also added 500 jobs. Financial activities and manufacturing also both added 200 jobs, while unsorted industries added 300.
Government saw the largest losses in March at 500 jobs, followed by trade, transportation and utilities, which lost 400.